Nursing student learns resilience after tragedy

The summer before her first semester at the University of Iowa, Rylee Petitgout nearly died in a boating accident on Lake Coralville. As she was thrown into the water, a propeller severed her little finger and several tendons in her right hand and gouged her thigh and buttocks. She lost a lot of blood.

Treated initially in the emergency department of UI hospitals & Clinics, Petitgout was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where she spent a month undergoing dozens of surgeries and recovering. Within a week of being released back to her family home in Iowa City, she moved into Catlett Residence Hall and began classes as a first-year nursing student.

Now, almost four years later – with lots of help from family and friends and constant support from the College of Nursing – Petitgout is on the verge of obtaining a BSN and has accepted a job starting in August in the neonatal intensive care unit at UI Stead Children’s Family Hospital.

Petitgout says she did not consider postponing her studies despite the physical challenges she faced. She needed a crutch to get around campus and had to learn to write with her left hand. His mother, Janine, a nurse practitioner at UI Hospitals & Clinics and a former nurse from Iowa came to her room every day to give her antibiotics and help her wash her hair. Her friends and family offered rides to and from physical therapy appointments, and Iowa staff helped her organize online classes, schedule extra testing time and use scribes in if needed.

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